Erykah Badu brings us a “New Amerykah”


Can’t a neo-soul goddess catch a break? The music business, a notoriously fickle and unfaithful lover, tends to recycle and downright discard them with alarming ease. They’ll come into our collective conscience like a white hot flash of funk and then, poof, they’re gone off our radar. Whether by their own doing or the industry’s capricious nature, or possibly both, their absence leaves us all wondering and wandering. Who next will delight us with a groove so irresistible, a spirit so exultant? But sometimes, if we’re lucky, poof, they’re back.

Yes, Erykah Badu is back. After arriving on the scene 11 years ago spinning her lessons in Baduizm, the neo-soul singer is set to release her first new album in five years, New Amerykah. OK, how cool is that album cover? The CD will hit store shelves Feb. 26. You can hear its first single, “Honey,” streaming on her official website.

While Badu first became known for her imposing and immaculate head wraps, she is now all about the afro. Which, I’ve got to say, I love. Fierce, girl, fierce. But the glasses, well, they’re another story. Is there even glass in there? Are they goggles? Whatever, at least she didn’t re-emerge dressed as a clown like some of her contemporaries. Not that I’m naming names — cough, Lauryn Hill, cough — or anything.

I saw Erykah perform at one of the Lilith Fair shows (anyone remember those? hello, you can’t all be that young), and a friend commented mid-performance that she had perfected baby-making music. To which we all laughed because, even if we were so inclined, there were no men within a 12-mile radius of the stadium. And then someone brought up turkey basters and, well, that’s another story for another day.

But Erykah was fantastic, her voice like impassioned silk. But there was always more to her than mere bump and grind. In her introspective lyrics was a passion for the wider world. So now, all these years later, I’m excited to hear what she has to say about the state of Amerykah today. And if you just can’t wait, take a listen to “The Healer” off her new album (set to still shots). The song’s grade school beats and child-like chants are oddly hypnotic. Reboot, refresh, restart, indeed.

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